tv America Tonight Al Jazeera August 12, 2015 2:30am-3:01am EDT
one of you for joining us. that's "inside story". for ray suarez, i'm nick deleon. deleon. "america tonight" is next. [ ♪ music ] good evening, i'm michael oku, this is a special edition of "america tonight". this evening we focus our lens on a 1300 acre scratch of south los angeles, it was referred to as a cattle ranch, then a major railroad junction. at one point nicknamed mud town for the many dirt roads that respect unpaved. after 1965, very few would call it anything but want.
decades later that symbol symbolic for all that could go wrong. 50 years ago the tension and frustration simmering for years between the residents and police came to a boiling point. what started as a routine traffic stop evolved into a race war. the riot served as a wake-up call for those in power, and the powerless. with deadly incidents involving police use of excessive force grabbing headlines, tonight, on the 50th anniversary of the riot, we examine what, if anything, was learnt from the tough lessons, decades ago. >> the economic depp rah vasion, social isolation, ibb adequate housing in general, thousands of negros teaming in northern and western ghettos on the sees that
violence. >> martin luther king addressing the media in los angeles, the day the deadry riot was soup arrested. by the time calm returned. 34 people lost their lives, and more than 1,000 were injured. >> 50 years ago the seeds of protests dr king referenced sprang to life. it had been in the '80s, that hot summer day, that cunt residents milled about the streets. the officer believed the motorist was driving drunk. he stopped him:. >> before long, the crowd of
onlookers became an angry mod, and they witnessed an alternate occurrence, use of force by the police, during a racially motivated arrest. years of pent-up rage and frustration exploded. more than 40 miles would be under siege. >> six days of rioting in los angeles, left behind scenes reminiscens of war-torn cities. >> reporter: byrne, baby, burn was the rallying cried. seared into the memories of an unrelenting wave of unrest. born and raised in watts, she had not been back in years, before joining us for a ride back to the old neighbourhood. >> i grew up playing on the watts towers. i had cousins that lived across the street. we would go over and climb them.
>> regina was a young mother of five when the chaos consumed her neighbourhood. the home where she raised her children was blocks from ground zero. in addition to being a resident, a member of the community, she was a dispatcher for the l.a.p.d. >> you are 22, a young adult. department. >> i saw racism, and i remember a white officer letting a door slam. i remember sitting to the little old white lady with white hair. she said "have you seen by dog?", and i said "you're dog", she brought out a picture. i said "he's adorable", she said what do you think his name is? she said nigger, he's black.
rampant. >> this was in an era where the majority of the los angeles police department was not possible white guys, but from the south, and were recruited from the south and the military. >> so say the relationship between the community and police was strained would be an understatement. in 1960 in los angeles, nine ot of every 10 blacks lived in south l.a. keg. >> you are dealing with a frustrated community. >> you deal with not only a frustrated community but an angered community, you have the occupied army, l.a.p.d., police force, the alienation factor, the sense there's a disconnect and no one cares. you can see that those are a lot of matters for combustion there. all it took was one thing, a little spark. >> regina jones was one of the
first to watch it ignite. >> were you working on august 11th, 1965. >> not only was i working i was sitting, i was working 77th subdivision, station. i was sitting there when i heard officer needs help. officer needs help. >> that was the first call. >> that was the first call. right now i'm feeling sick. now. >> i remember them thinking officer - please come in. identify yourself. who are you? where are you? identify yourself, and me screaming to the police officer in the center of the horse show. you feel like you had their lives in your hands. >> it was in my hands. they came back, all the scuffling and sounds, and he
identified himself. >> what was the moment like when this officer goes down and you know that there is something brewing in the community that is not an every day occurrence. the fear of the fact was close to my home. my kids, where were they, in the house, across the street. where were my children, where was my husband. >> 18 and fearless at the time. himself. >> at some point you found yourself coming down to the street corner on western and 39. >> at that point crowds were gathering up and down the streets. store owners were evacuating. so they did. people started the looting before the burning started.
people are going in store. as soon as the shift ended regina rushed home to her kids. porch. >> that's kind. >> the family that lived there now allowed us inside. >> there were windows on the front. i took everyone into this bedroom. and the kids were in the closet. it wasn't this closet. >> you would take the kids and put them in the closet. there were no windows. i was ns worried. the only place anything could happen was there. i was afraid. i came in here. >> you were afraid gunfire may come through the windows. >> i was frightened to death. members of the national guard called in to restore order were frightened.
many of the citizens and soldiers were wrong. these were young men in the national guard in the fatigues, uniforms that had their guns fixed. this is something that burned in my memory. >> look a little closer at the faces. they had complete state power. i still saw fear. i saw fear in their eyes, and unsirnty. what are they afraid of? they are afraid of us. >> when i pulled off the freeway, and these young national guns are everywhere, in their military uniform with guns drawn, i thought if the car back fires, he may shoot me, that's when the fear hit me. >> her fear was not paranoia. she said she
witnessed from her window. i can't go to the vision of the flyer. >> what else do you see? >> fear, anger, out of control. did you see buildings burning. >> only this one. >> right over here. >> over here. >> i had a friend work there. he died. >> oh, my goodness. >> i was heart broken. this was someone i knew who died. burned up in the fire. >> once the claims and violence died down, governor pat brown created a commission to look into the socioeconomic factors. the commission came back with three key recommendations. take steps to relieve job
opportunities for neeing rose, farm a programme designed to raise levels of attainment. and law enforcement for citizen complaints and relationships. >> i think people are more afraid of police officers today, than they were back then. i truly believe that. there's posterity, homelessness, out the things that break up families and people. they take their soles away today than there was 50 years ago. it's much worse. 50 years ago we could dream. dream. >> oaring ubley noing stays the same -- arguably nothing stays the same. many of the same conditions are here - high um, police, lack of
businesses and investment in the community. all of that is there. quality of life issues that suffered in 1965, you still see in 2016. >> the sides of protest that crew into the riots still there 50 years later. the watch riot damaged or destroyed 800 buildings, causing 40 million in property damage.
minimum quality standard. i visited a hospital in the area and found out when a community lacks basic service, it's a mart of life in death. >> you got shot. by the time the ambulance got here, you was already dead. the lady down the street. her boy got shot and died before they could get him to the hospital. for more than six decades. alice called the block deep in the heart of watts home. in 1965 she watched the streets around her go up in flames as residents destroyed her own community after years of resentment after rise in tensions and services. they needons and medical facilities in the area. we lost we lost three children with asthma.
>> kids with asthma are dying because yes had to go too far. >> on a bus, few have cars. if you want to kill a community, kill the medical care, that kills a community. >> a commissioner investigated the riot and released the 101 page report, sighting other things, insufficient and inactionable medical care as an underlying cause of the uprising. governor brown - he was so pet. he had a big old community like this and no medical facility. he went to washington to get a boat out. it must be a hospital on the grounds at all times. that's how we got one hospital. martin luther king junior hospital opened the doors in 1972 to a long-forgotten community, which had seen little
suffering and too much care. >> that was heaven. they didn't have to suffer. whatever happens, is you won't leave. you have the best in the world. it's a great reason for hope, a clear sign of accomplishment. mark ridley thomas sits on the board of supervisors, representing 2 million people in the second district, including watts. martin luther king hospital was an important step forward. it was a way of saying that watts' uprising was something that could have been and should have been avoided. within a few years, the hope dinged. amid horror stories of neglect and confidence. patients are dying, and needless lites. as reports persisted, they earnt the nickname killer king.
that. >> my wife is dying and the nurses don'ted want to help her out. this those other patients standing bias the jan tors client the floor. >> they are watching, and not doing anything. >> she was suffering on the floor of the e.r. for 45 agonising minutes before she died. >> it was the accumulation of instances of bedcall malpractise. these are comments that a lot who worked hard to do the best they could did not want to hear. there are no excuses for that. and ultimately resulted in the hospital being closed. with them, it looked as if martin luther king had died again. that hurt.
that really hurt, and we was promised it was there. >> talk about that. did people throw up their arms and say you gave us heaven, now we putting it through helle. we are not going to have another riot. we are not going to do that. we have to find a way to get the hospital back. the voices of the community were clear, that a new hospital had to be built. martin luther king junior community hospital opened in july with a new look and an optimistic future. >> i think the most important lesson is that this hospital is built on a different model than the old hospital. >> a model highly influenced by the affordable care act. dr mitchell cats, director of
the country health department explains. >> under the affordable care act, one of the things that was recognised if you want to expand access, you have to bring down the cost of health care. the best way to do that is provide people with the care they need, in the right place at the right time. we recognise that hospitals are important to people's health. continuance. >> the new hospital is part of the a revitalized medical campus featuring state of the art facilities, some 950 patients are served at this outpatient facility every day. >> the hospital was built with the advantage of modern equipment. >> i wanted to show you what an like. >> this tells the pharmacy when a dose is
done, so thee need when to send up another device. >> this pops up. language. >> what does this many to the unit you community? >> it's a sign the community cares about them, not just the people in beverly hills are entitled to the best care. beverly hills, they are pretty. >> doctor king made it clear there's nothing more detestable in a democratic society and that of health care, equality and disparities, it's well overdue that the name of martin luther king hospital be restored to the level that it deserves, namely to honour the man whose
tradition we stand. can you describe the difference between watts. >> in 65 we didn't have medical facilities. now we have better facilities. that makes the difference, we don't have to worry about our children. that they would die, than have to worry about the young getting shot. that's the difference. >> the martin luther king junior community hops will service more than a million residents. they will not serve anyone away. when we return. a look back in time. a famed photographer and some of the stunning images captured a year after the riot. ot.
. >> after working for newspapers and a wire service i went to work for life in 1957. >> movie reel: this was the new, 34 dead... >> they said go to watts and do a story of what it looks like a year later. this is a typical shot that you can see almost every night. a police car jammed full of troops, lights on, shotguns out the window. this was typical kind of poverty. that is post war america, 1965. that is not the impression down in the hill billy country. there was a lot of rubble in watts. dozens of buildings and looked sort of like
berlin in 1945. people - i don't know if they are collecting briggs or what. >> you can't help but come back to the fact that this is in post-war america. it took a while to get used to. >> it's tremendous damage, and one that we hung around there. everyone thinks you are a cop. or you are an enemy. this is a group of young men. they were, in a way a kind of a gang. before taking the photo, i found the westminster neighbourhood center. and these are the kids that hung around there. i think trying to stay out of trouble. hanging out, going places. i got to know them and got them to trust me, so we would go around. this is the day, on the way to
watts tower. that they all freely admitted that they took part informant riot. the poverty and the hopelessness, when i saw where they lived, how they lived. it was appalling. you can't help but your heart goes out to them. you don't think of it as buying post-war america. you think of it as third world. you got to admire the clothes, red sox and sporty hat. and we are hanging out. they are showing me the sites. these kids are survivors, they took part in the riot, they survived, they are there. they are getting on with their lives. $aren't any jobs.
education is limited. you try to figure out what they'll be doing. >> this is my friend. he, with all the other gang members took part in the riots, and his specialty was throwing molotov cocktails. in the beginning i was a little nervous about the whole situation, but i had a pretty good relationship with the guys, as long as they were near. i was stunned to see the building with this written on it. it was a business that was owned by a black person who put it on. of course, it became a manned re. but blood brother, letting everyone know that a brother
owned it, not to let it burn down. as poor as they were, you can see the dignity in their eyes. people in my generation thought you could do anything in america. and why the hell would it change, i don't know it's important to note that many people here in south l.a. referred to the riot as an uprising or rebellion. it's an indication that in this part of l.a. people view the historical event as a movement to affect change rather than an expression of raw anger. that's it for "america tonight". we'll have more "america tonight" >> it creates a huge opportunity for the small business owners. >> these are all different strains.
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